The Leach wheels that I am making are patterned after wheels used at
the Leach Pottery in St. Ives, England. My goal in making the wheels is to craft an
heirloom quality potters wheel that functions as furniture as well as a tool of the
highest standards that will last for generations.
I craft Leach wheels in a variety of hardwoods: cherry, ash, walnut, maple, etc.
The wood is individually selected based on structure as well as aesthetics. Hard
maple is used for the flywheel for superb wear, balance and appearance. The frame
utilizes mortise and tenon construction for strength, rigidity, and the ability to
disassemble fully for any special considerations in moving. The splash pan is
constructed of special hard woods chosen for figure and density for superb wear
characteristics. The splash pan is constructed using compound box joints and is
lined with copper for strength and beauty. Every joint is hand-fitted to insure a
quality that results in a treadle wheel that is a joy to use and will last for
The mechanics of the wheels I make are given equal consideration. The shaft
assembly and connection points to the treadle block and treadle bar retain the rhythmic
qualities inherent to the treadle wheel used at the Leach pottery while making use of
other materials that are more durable. Grease fittings make simple servicing of the
wheel quick and easy. A strap used to connect the treadle block to the shaft is made
of a well-known type of durable material, which has a lower coefficient of friction and degree of stretch than that of
leather. That strap is finally covered with leather for aesthetic reasons.
A plate form of an aluminum alloy -- also extremely resistant to wear -- is used to
make the wheel head. The standard size is 12 3/4" (370 mm). Wheel heads
of brass or stainless steel may be special ordered. The wheel head and shaft are fit
together using a slight taper that has been precision machined. This allows the
potter to remove the wheel head after throwing to easily clean out the splash pan.
In a world that tends toward mass production, and where commitment to items of enduring
quality is secondary to quick profit, I find myself drawn toward well designed and crafted
tools. The wheels that I make speak of integrity and a commitment to quality that
lasts -- from the materials, to the craftsmanship, to the attention to detail.
To my knowledge, I am making the best quality Leach style treadle wheel in the world.
© Douglas Gates